Despite high court ruling, red-light cameras can be stopped

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Red-light cameras presume guilt and that is wrong. Pressure must be put on local city councils not to use them.

The state Supreme Court last week essentially gave the green light to red-light cameras when it ruled invalid a 2010 Mukilteo ballot initiative banning the devices.

The ruling puts on hold efforts around the state -- Longview, Bellingham, Monroe, Redmond and Wenatchee -- to use the initiative process to supersede local city councils' decisions to use red-light cameras. These are devices placed at intersections that snap a shot of the license plates of cars that have run red lights. A ticket is then mailed to the car's registered owner who is presumed responsible for breaking the law and is on the hook for paying the fine.

The Supreme Court ruling doesn't deal with the constitutionality of red-light cameras but rather whether the voters have the power to overturn decisions made by local city councils or county commissions. The court said the Legislature gave local governing bodies -- not voters -- the ability to approve or repeal the use of traffic cameras.

"The Legislature's grant of authority does not extend to the electorate," the court said.

We would have to agree, by the letter of the law, with the high court.

Nevertheless, we believe red-light cameras are a lousy way to administer justice. We have several problems with the robo law enforcement, starting with its presumption of guilt.

Another strike against red-light cameras is the motivation for putting them in place. It is not so much to keep the streets safer but to collect a lot of fines. It's all about tapping into a lucrative revenue stream.

The revolt against the cameras started in Mukilteo, a small city next to Everett where initative king Tim Eyman lives. He pushed a measure to ban red-light cameras. It won by a landslide as 71 percent of Mukilteo voters called for a ban on the cameras.

Cities across the state have taken millions of dollars in fines from car owners after their cars were caught on camera allegedly going through an intersection after the light had turned red. For-profit companies review the photos, then mail tickets for $124 to presumed offenders who are presumed guilty. That's simply wrong.

And while the high court ruling makes it tougher to fight traffic cameras, it is clearly not impossible. The voters of Mukilteo have triumphed.

The Mukilteo City Council did away with the cameras in response to the voters' overwhelming support of the initiative to ban red-light cameras.

This can be done statewide by putting pressure on city councils to end robo law enforcement.

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